Why CEOs Should Get Out And Speak
Listen to Episode 79:
Episode 79 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success, on the web at BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and right across from me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s another wonderful day for an episode of Growth Igniters radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, and if this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders like you to accelerate themselves − and their companies − to that next level of growth and success. So Pam, what are we going to take on today?
Pam Harper: Why CEOs, and other senior executives, should get out and speak. When I talk about speaking, I’m not talking about how we often have to get up and speak about whatever the business results are, or whatever; I’m talking about speaking and sharing the story of our leadership journeys − our companies’ journeys. Specifically it can be such a powerful way to accomplish so many objectives.
For example, last evening I was at an ACG New Jersey event, and the keynote speaker was David Brandon, the chairman and CEO of Toys “R” Us. He’s about a year into leading the company, and he was so masterful. He spoke with about 200 business leaders about his own leadership journey through his career, and he wove this together with the exciting story of Toys “R” Us and their growth.
Yet so many CEOs I meet are reluctant to speak, except when it’s absolutely necessary. I believe that it’s because there are a lot of misconceptions that people have about this, and that leaves opportunities on the table. The question is, what are some of the trends that we need to know about in speaking in 2016? That is why we’re happy to have as our guest today Ken Lizotte, who is the Chief Imaginative Officer of Emerson Consulting Group Incorporated. We’ve had Ken on as our guest before.
Scott Harper: Yes we have.
Pam Harper: He is the author of 7 books including, The Expert’s Edge, which was the topic of our discussion in Episode 30, and his newest book, The Speaker’s Edge: The Ultimate Go-To Guide for Locating and Landing Lots of Speaking Gigs.
Ken and his team focus on helping clients elevate themselves as thought leaders and separate themselves from the competitive pack. He himself speaks frequently at national and local business events, including annual appearances at Harvard and the Concord Festival of Authors. Ken has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Newsweek, and so many others. You’ll see all of this on GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, Episode 79. Ken, welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio.
Ken Lizotte: Thank you Scott and Pam, I am always, always excited to be with you guys.
Pam Harper: It’s always fun to have you. Are you seeing what we’re seeing? Which is this reluctant CEO. On the one hand, we see people like Steve Case, who we talk about, who’s written, The Third Wave, and he’s out there. And Dan Lubetzky, the CEO of KIND, talks about his leadership journey and the growth of KIND. But there’s this other type of response to speaking − “I’ll get up there, I’ll speak about the company results, but I won’t necessarily share my own story.”
Scott Harper: Yeah; there are people who say that at a funeral some people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. What about that with CEOs?
Ken Lizotte: You know Scott, I was going to use that joke.
Scott Harper: Sorry about that.
Ken Lizotte: I really was. That’s Jerry Seinfeld’s joke you know.
Scott Harper: Yes it is.
Pam Harper: We’re on the same wavelength, see? That’s what it is.
Ken Lizotte: But you know, that’s a great way to start, because what we’re really talking about is that, the broader population and not just CEOs − CEOs just happen to be another segment of folks − a small percentage of them understand the value of going out and speaking to groups, and others don’t. My guess is that CEOs have so much to do day-to-day inside their companies that the idea of going out and taking on what can be a very scary endeavor, speaking to groups, is most often not top of mind.
Pam Harper: Yes. Part of it is that. And others, when I talk to them say things like, “I’m willing to talk about the company, but I’m not so willing to talk about myself.”
Ken Lizotte: Right, right. That just upping the ante. If you’re scared to go out in front of group anyway, or intimidated, then now you’re supposed to reveal yourself as well? That’s why if they aren’t being asked or pressured to do it, to actually initiate it on their own, it’s going be easier to just ignore that.
Scott Harper: But the irony is that there are a growing number of opportunities for executives and CEOs to speak, more than just getting up in front of investor groups or giving keynotes.
What do you see as some of the trends that are emerging that CEOs and executives should be aware of for speaking? Some of which may not be quite so scary.
Ken Lizotte: I think some of the not so scary ones would be things like electronic or online speaking opportunities, like webinars for example.
Pam Harper: Like Growth Igniters Radio, for example!
Ken Lizotte: I was going to say that too − you guys are stealing my lines here. I had my mind…
Scott Harper: Two minds, but with a single thought.
Ken Lizotte: Listen, I have it in my notes − webinars and podcasts.
What you guys are doing is a great example, too, of what shouldn’t be as scary. I say “shouldn’t” because it depends on the individual; they might intimidated by podcast or radio or webinar I think, too. But what we are seeing in terms of trends is that there are more and more of those opportunities available, where you don’t have to be literally facing an audience.
Pam Harper: Ken, do you think there are more opportunities now and more need, more demand for groups to hear the story of the leadership journey? Because that to me is a truly valuable thing. As I said last night, all of us in the room were mesmerized by David Brandon.
Scott Harper: If leaders can give some of the impression of the twists and turns they face, and the big decisions that they’ve made that have really changed the game, it’s good for them, it’s good for the company and it’s good for the people listening. It really inspires new ways of thinking.
Ken Lizotte: Obviously we love to hear people’s stories. We love to relate to each other as human beings. I know that you’ve had one of my long time clients, the CEO of Atrion Networking, Tim Hebert. You’ve had him a couple of times, and I know that the reason is, he’s one of those guys that does reveal himself and is really … let’s you touch him and he touches you, so to speak.
Scott Harper: Yeah. The story of him climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is incredibly inspiring.
Pam Harper: The leadership lessons that he learned, that is incredible. We all learn. We all improve our paths.
Ken Lizotte: Exactly, and we don’t learn as much when we’re just hearing status reports and facts and figures. Of course we learn something, but that’s not what’s going to turn us on, not really. No matter how much we’re into learning that kind of data.
Pam Harper: What would somebody who is not going out to be a professional speaker, but still needs to know about some of the things that every speaker needs to know − what would you say would be especially valuable in your book?
Ken Lizotte: In terms of criteria that speakers should use in choosing speaking opportunities − is this the right audience for me? How large an audience will it be? I don’t say that meaning that the best audience is 1,000 people, but it does make a difference if you are going to go out and prepare a speaking engagement, your presentation, maybe practice it and this and that, and then perhaps travel to a venue and all. You want to be sure it’s not going to have just 15 people in the audience, because that can happen.
Pam Harper: Absolutely.
Ken Lizotte: Now in 15 people, there could be one or even two that are the perfect fit for you, but still nowadays when you go and speak you have to be prepared to pay your own way to not get a fee, et cetera.
Pam Harper: You’re talking about the CEO speaker of a company…
Ken Lizotte: Right, actually anybody.
Pam Harper: Well that’s true actually, if I think about it, some of the speakers, the CEO speakers, that I’ve arranged for at times have done it for reasons, not about getting the money because that isn’t even of course what they’re concerned about, but rather they’re there because they have an important message to share, they have connections to make. There’s a lot more at stake than a speaker’s fee. It’s a different deal.
Ken Lizotte: Exactly.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take a quick break right now. When we come back we’ll speak more with Ken Lizotte about using the power of speaking for advancing your objectives for yourself and for your company. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum for game changing results. We’re on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
Pam Harper: Does the topic we’re talking about today resonate with you? Well we have more, check out related episodes to expand your perspectives and take away immediately useful ideas. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 79 and scroll down under resources.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper, that’s me, and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Ken Lizotte, chief imaginative officer of Emerson Consulting Group Incorporated, and author of, The Speaker’s Edge. Ken, how can people find out more about you, your books and Emerson Consulting Group?
Ken Lizotte: In terms of my books it’s available anywhere − Amazon, Barnes & Noble. You can order it probably through your local bookstore, wherever books are found, let’s say.
Pam Harper: Okay.
Ken Lizotte: In terms of my business and the services I provide, you might take a look at my website, which is www.thoughtleading.com.
Pam Harper: Okay. You can also find links and other information about today’s episode by going to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 79. Ken, getting back to our conversation, you were starting to talk about some of the reasons why people would speak. Let’s talk about some ways that CEOs would consider opportunities and how they could tailor their talks to specific opportunities, all without going crazy.
Ken Lizotte: Without going crazy − well that’s a tall order for me to figure out that they not go crazy, but I’ll do what I can here. I was thinking before the break of a personal story that could be helpful in a lot of what we’re discussing here. Right from the top talking about why CEOs might hold back for example, and also how they can do it as you’re asking here − how they can do it without going crazy. One of the reasons why Seinfeld made that joke about “you’d rather be in the coffin than out doing a eulogy” is that it can be very scary. You can be very, very nervous about it, you can be worrying about it for days or weeks or whatever.
I have been speaking for many, many years and for me, for a lot of those years I was like anybody else. I would be nervous before it was time for me to go up and talk. I would be concerned about whether I was going to do a good job and all of that. That’s I think the biggest thing that holds people back. I finally got rid of that. People ask me now when I’m about to go out to speak, “Are you nervous?” I always say, “No,” because I’m not. I’m not nervous at all anymore, because it finally occurred to me that speaking is no different than networking. In fact it’s the ultimate form of networking, but that’s all it is.
If you’re a CEO or anyone else that is in business, and if you have ever had a lunch with somebody, with 1 on 1 lunch, or 1 on 2 lunch, or met with a small group and we’re talking to them about what you do and what your services are and what value you and your company could bring. There’s not at all the level of nervousness that a speaker might feel before getting up before a group of 50, 100, 500 or whatever. If you let that go and you just understand that you are just in a room with other people, talking, interacting, letting them know what’s valuable about you and your company, and that they’re hear to listen and perhaps to interact with you through let’s say the question and answer period, then you can understand that that’s a way not to go crazy but to see it as normal course of business development events.
Pam Harper: Good point. I think the other thing is that often times the people that I’m meeting are humble − “People don’t need to hear about my leadership journey, it was nothing.” Of course they’ve done amazing things and it isn’t nothing. It’s just there’s so much in their systems that they don’t see, they don’t hear how much they have to share. We’ll have a few episodes from some of the CEOs who’ve spoken on Growth Igniters Radio for people to listen to on our episode page. These people are so natural; there’s so much value there that people underestimate. You’re so right; the distinction between talking and speaking, I think, takes a lot of the pressure off.
Ken Lizotte: Yeah, but you can’t just wipe it away. When the epiphany came to me, again I had already been speaking a lot over the years. I think one of the important things too is how do you get to the point that I got to? You may have to deal with that nervousness in order to get to it, but why would you deal with the nervousness? The only way you would have the opportunity to deal with the nervousness would be to be going out and speaking. Practice, practice, practice, you know? Experience, experience, experience. That’s what’s really important in terms of going out and speaking and not just saying, “Maybe I can get myself a keynote address next month.” It requires more than that to get to that point.
Scott Harper: Okay, so are there some specific things that CEOs and executives can do to develop their ability to deliver their message for maximum impact. We’re not necessarily talking about elocution and voice and so on, but what are some of the things to bear in mind as you’re developing your ability to deliver that impact?
Ken Lizotte: Some quick things are things like ease up on PowerPoint. You guys are in New Jersey, and I once spoke at an event in New Jersey and I didn’t use PowerPoint. I remember people coming up to me afterwards and saying, “It’s so great that you didn’t use PowerPoint. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” That’s one of the big criticisms that is had about speakers in general, is that there’s too much of a dependence of PowerPoint.
Pam Harper: The visual is important, but maybe you don’t want a slideshow like that. In fact last night there was no PowerPoint, there was no visual aid. It was an after dinner talk, which also probably had some bearing on that. In general though, I think we’re seeing more people who, if they’re doing things like that, they’re using photos. I’m thinking TED Talks.
Ken Lizotte: Sure. That’s how it can work, but it’s the idea that sometimes when you’re starting out speaking, particularly if you’re, let’s say a CEO, where there’s a lot of information to convey, you can end up with 8 or 10 bullet points and the CEO speaker is just going through them one by one; that’s where the crowd leaves you. That’s one − ease up on PowerPoint.
The other though is to take this seriously. When I say practice, practice, practice, that’s important. Even if you go and speak to civic groups and groups that aren’t particularly your business audience, which is actually a pretty good idea. Going back to Seinfeld for example, who has only one example, comedians will very typically go out and do their act as they’re developing it in venues in which no one’s paying any big money to come and see them. But we really need to practice in order to become better speakers. That’s number 1.
Number 2, you’ve got to take this seriously and look at it for the long haul, so that yes, don’t just read my book − although read my book. But don’t just read my book, but read other books on speaking, particularly those that can give you some pointers on delivering a great presentation. Watch some videos, whether they’re TED Talks or whatever. Take a course; hire somebody to coach you. In other words take it seriously, that’s how you’ll develop yourself.
Pam Harper: All definitely important, so let’s switch it around. We’ve talked about how the speaker can give value to the audience, what about for us − how can we get most of our objectives met, most value?
Ken Lizotte: You know it amazes me how someone will get up and do a speaking presentation, particularly even if they’re a featured speaker or keynoter at an event that has just exactly the right audience for them. They’ve prepared and spent a lot of time on that. They’ve practiced and they’ve traveled and they’ve done all of that. They get up and they do a fantastic job delivering their speaking engagement, and then they say, “Thank you,” take a question or two and then they sit down, and then they leave. That’s it. There’s no follow up; there’s nothing.
Here’s an opportunity to begin a relationship, a business relationship, that could have value for both parties, with potentially 30 relationships, 80 relationships, whatever the audience number is. Instead of building on that relationship with some sort of next step or some sort of follow up, the speaker basically walks away and might as well be saying, “I hope we had fun because it’s the last time we’re going to hear from each other.
Pam Harper: Oh no.
Ken Lizotte: But that is basically what the effect of that is. Here’s what you need to do, you need to first find a way to get the business cards, particularly the emails, of those who are in your audience. If you’ve got a book, a book is one of the ways − calling cards − to get better, more speaking engagements. If you’ve got a book you can raffle off a book for example. Or you can simply say, “I would really like to keep in touch with all of you. I’d like to exchange business card.” You will get them that way.
But the key is, you’ve got to have their contact information, not so that you can have your sales people call them up and bug them, but so that you can have some non-threatening follow up emails, an e-blast − some sort of follow up marketing, just as you would do if you or your sales people were going to a sales meeting.
Pam Harper: It’s connecting with people, and the more that you recognize that there are many objectives for what you’re trying to do, there’s a lot more reasons to have that contact information.
Now when you’re on social media, like Growth Igniters Radio, of course you can’t get the cards per se, that’s why when we have our CEO guests we’ll always ask, “What do you want to share with people that supplements whatever we’re discussing?” Just like we’re doing with you. That’s another way to stay in touch with people.
Scott Harper: Pam said something very important; she used the word “objectives.” If people think strategically about speaking and what is it I want to accomplish, why am I doing this? What are my objectives − for me, for my company, for the people I’m serving with my speaking? And when you blend that, Ken, with what you were talking about − a process − then it’s going to all fall together much better, and everyone’s going to get a better outcome.
Ken Lizotte: Today it’s easier than ever to sustain your networking contacts because of LinkedIn in particular; everybody’s on LinkedIn and it’s so easy to connect.
Pam Harper: There are so many powerful ways to connect, and getting the message out faster is one of the prime values of all these different venues that are available to us, whether it’s in person, whether it’s social media. The idea is we’re getting our message out, we’re sharing with people and we’re doing it faster than if we were just doing it one person at a time.
Ken Lizotte: Exactly.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take another quick break. When we come back we’ll talk more with Ken Lizotte, author of The Speaker’s Edge, about three immediately useful ideas on how you can use speaking to change the game for yourself and for your company. Stay with us.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments Scott and I have been speaking with Ken Lizotte, Chief Imaginative Officer of Emerson Consulting Group Incorporated and author of The Speaker’s Edge. Ken can you tell us again how people can find out more about you, your books and Emerson Consulting Group.
Ken Lizotte: In terms of the book, The Speaker’s Edge, go to Amazon and take a look, there’s a lot of information there, there are testimonials to the book there already, or order it through Barnes & Noble or through your local bookshop. As for my company, we’re located at www.thoughtleading.com.
Pam Harper: Okay. It is a great book; so practical. This is the part of our program where we talk about the most practical ideas. What would be the first thing that you would say to people, the CEOs, who are faced with all kinds of opportunities to speak but trying to figure out what it is that they’re going to do, where are they going to do, and how are they going to make the most of it?
Ken Lizotte: Again, what they mainly have to know is what kind of audience they want to have. If there were getting a number of speaking invitations and they didn’t feel they had time for all of them, then which ones are going to be the best value for them? Again going back to what we were talking about before, in terms of having to pay their own expenses, or the company having to pay for their own expenses.
By the way, it goes further than that these days, there’s a huge trend for what’s called “pay to play.” If your company is going to trade shows and paying money for that, and sponsoring events and that sort of things, that’s an opportunity for you to also get a speaking slot. Basically you’re paying anyway for it, so why not …
Pam Harper: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of conferences that actually will have the CEO of the company as a speaker, and coincidentally they’re sponsoring, how about that?
Ken Lizotte: Right, exactly. You’re seeing that a lot. I have clients who are doing that and are saying it actually pays off.
Pam Harper: Yes.
Ken Lizotte: Why not, if it pays off.
Pam Harper: Of course, it also positions you as a leader in that industry.
Ken Lizotte: Exactly. That’s what you want to think about − not just the audience but what does that mean for you to be the leader of your company, to be the leader, what’s the message you want to deliver. You may have five, six, seven messages depending on the different products or services that you have to offer, so that means you’ve to pare that down and make an offer. Maybe you have five different speaking engagement topics, so you don’t try to cover everything all in one, let’s say, 45 minutes speaking slot.
Scott Harper: Okay, so focus, focus, focus − and plan, plan, plan. What’s another piece of practical advice Ken?
Ken Lizotte: I’ve got a chapter in the book that discusses keynote addresses. I think that people are, whether again whoever they are, CEOs or otherwise, people think that being the keynoter is what you really have to do. Some people think that if you’re not a keynoter you’re not really going to be spotlighted enough. I think that’s really wrong, particularly when you’re starting out. If you are doing a great job as a panelist, or doing a breakout session throughout the conference, or even − get this − even doing an introduction in terms of an elevator speech, you can get the room to focus on you, even if you’re doing a 30 second elevator speech.
If you’re doing it right, if you’re doing it in a way that really grabs their attention immediately and succinctly delivers the message of the value of you and your company, you might as well be a keynoter. In my earlier book, The Expert’s Edge, I have a whole outline of how to do this, how to construct what I can call an impact statement, as opposed to an elevator speech. It doesn’t require more than 30 seconds. You’ve got to think in terms of speaking engagements being available in their various formats, in various situations.
Pam Harper: That really resonates with me. As you know I chair an event for ACG New Jersey. It’s the Corporate Growth Conference and Awards. One of the things that we do is every Fall we put out a search for the companies that are middle market and the CEOs are the speakers in this case. If they are selected as honorees they are part of a panel. They’re talking about their link between innovation and corporate growth. Some of these people really have not shared their journey before, and I moderate that panel. I’ll pull people out, the last time in front of 200 people there were people who had … I’m not sure that all of them had shared their journey before as much as we were talking about. It was very exciting to hear the stories and the impact statements I think were starting to come out − “what made the impact for our company? What made the impact for me?”
Ken Lizotte: People are trying to learn from each other. We’re all trying to learn from each other. We can relate to a lesson learned from the speaker much better than we can from fact and figures. We can think of it, “That’s something I could try,” or, “That’s something I tried.” We can turn it over in our minds. That’s why the story telling aspect of it and the personal revelations can be so powerful.
Pam Harper: Exactly. Ken, what’s a third immediately useful idea?
Ken Lizotte: You’ve got to see this as an ongoing feature of your business development. You’ve got to not think of this as, “Maybe I’ll speak here and there. Maybe I’ll speak when I’m invited.” This really should be integrated with your overall marketing, selling, business development. It’s a mindset. If you start thinking that way, start out slow, you start out careful. Try to have it be a learning experience in the beginning, but it will start gathering momentum, and it will start to be working all on its own.
Pam Harper: It sounds like the immediately useful idea would be to start making a list of exactly what you’re going to do to develop yourself and get that word out, just as you’re talking about.
Scott Harper: Be strategic.
Ken Lizotte: Right, be strategic, absolutely, yeah.
Pam Harper: Ken, do you have any final thoughts as far as how CEOs and other top executives can sharpen their speaker’s edge?
Ken Lizotte: Get out of your darn office! Get out! That’s the title of this episode, right − why you should get out? I do understand, as I think I said at the beginning, that CEOs in particular can be consumed by what’s going on day to day in their worlds, and you’ve really got to think about, don’t just live it to your sales staff, you’re the leader, you’re the face of this organization. Get out there; tell your story. Let people know that there’s a human side to the services and goods that you offer. That will connect like nothing else in your business development efforts.
Pam Harper: Ken, thanks again for being our guest today.
Ken Lizotte: Thank you.
Scott Harper: Thanks so much Ken. And thanks to you out there for listening for Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, and select episode 79.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper …
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper …
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team:
Scott Harper: What can I do − what can we do to share our stories in more diverse and high impact ways and sharpen our speaker’s edge?